Finding Your Guard: The Challenge of the Blue Belt Practitioner
When you receive your blue belt, the number one fear that often follows you like a spectre is the realization that you do not "have a guard". Many masters of the art express the sentiment that the blue belt is the time to explore and develop as many techniques as you possible can. It is a time of learning and absorption. Few other areas offer as much of a smorgasbord of options than the types of guard that you will begin to play. Indeed, the Spider Guard, the De La Riva Guard, the Half Guard, the Deep Half Guard, the Lapel Guard, the Worm Guard, the Lapel Guard, the Ringworm Guard, the Gubber Guard, the Coyote Half Guard, the Quarter Guard, the Closed Guard, the Lasso Guard and even the Grilled Chicken Guard. The point is that there are many ways to counter your opponent's attacks, and that one way or another you need to find your first way of defending against the onslaught.
For me, I have spent an entire year of cycling through the infinite list of guards. I have played them against 14 year olds and frost giants, and I have come to understand what my own body can do effectively against the majority of players. The toughest part of trying guards is the reality of having almost all of those guards passed and that you get smashed hard by the person you hoped you would keep at bay. So where do you begin and how do you examine what might work with some work, what is a natural fit and what will never work in a million years?
It will take time. It will take some squishing. It will take some realistic evaluation. Now you can totally make the decision that you will become a Spider Guard player despite all feedback that this is not the guard for you. The beauty of jiu jitsu is that with enough work you can force your body to adapt to the game you desire, but if you find your knuckles swelling with arthritis and that you still get smashed, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.
Closed Guard Sequence by Chris Haueter
So where do you begin? Personally I would begin at the beginning: Chris Haueter' Old School Efficient by BJJ Fanatics. He simply presents the idea that the guard should be used as a way back to the top game versus a way to become ensnared into the siren call of technical jiu jitsu. For Chris, it is all about the sweeps and creating pain for your opponent until you get back to the top. There are not twenty step maneuvers to get the sweep from Haueter. Get up. Take control. Keep control.
One Of The Best BJJ Half Guard Sweeps (The Coyote Half Guard) by Lucas Leite
After that you need to deal with the Half Guard. At this moment, the Half Guard is probably the most played guard in jiu jitsu. That will change, but if you are here, then you will need to deeply explore how to both play and defeat this particular position. The two different paradigms that I chose for the Half Guard was the Coyote Half Guard by Lucas Leite and the Ground Marshall Half Guard by Neil Melanson.
The half is a tricky position because it demands that you learn to understand the principle of kuzushi or unbalancing. You need to off-balance your opponent while simultaneously protecting yourself against the pass and possible submissions.
Bottom Half Guard Overview by Neil Melanson
Within the third arena of guards, I would look at the Spider Guard. I would not look at it because I believe that it should become your preferred guard, but rather because I believe that it helps you understand how to not only defend the guard, but also how to play all of the other guards. The Spider Guard is hard on your fingers, and as a mid 40s player, it can cause a whole week of cold water tap drips. But, the Spider Guard is equally about the hip movement as it is about the actual grips. Within a few weeks, you will find a multitude of sleeve grips and hip movements that can be transferred to your entire game.
If I were to start anywhere, then I would begin with Romulo Barral, if only because there are few things cooler than hashtagging #everydayporrada, as you document your jiu jitsu journey. Romulo will offer you both strategic and technical attacks from this position that will encourage you to develop a multitude of attacks along your many years of training. Build the foundation and build an empire.
Inverse De La Riva Hook Sweep by Romulo Barral
So keep plugging away at the guard endeavour, as it will prove to become the formative challenge of your entire journey in jiu jitsu. Look for new angles and seek out private lesson with anyone who absolutely confounds you with their guard. In fact, there is a real value in allowing a truly unique guard to play itself through its cycle in a rolling session. Asking to be taught a few tips by your sparring partner after they have mauled you, is often easier than when you have fought to the death. In the end, we live and die by our guards, so any work that you can do on this position will only benefit you for many years to come.
Find your Guard with Romulo Barral! Everyday Porrada Spider Guard By Romulo Barral will give you an UNPASSABLE guard, and DEVASTATING attacks. Update your Ground Game with THE BEST!